Bubble Hockey Schedule Hypes My Hockey Enjoyment

The Bubble Hockey Playoff is going to sour me from playoff hockey the rest of my life.

The NHL has hit it out of the park with the Hub Cities idea and honestly, the way they’ve formatted the schedule so that there’s very few overlapping games, allowing fans to not have to choose between games has been remarkable. To be able to start at noon ET and then it end beyond midnight is just a wet dream for hockey fans, but it also allows all the teams in the play-in to have center stage and put themselves on display. For many of these teams, it’s a big chance to show off what some people may be missing because they don’t get this kind of platform.

Unfortunately, this won’t be happening every playoff because the revenue that the games create is needed for the league to survive, blah-blah-blah– I don’t care. This is the perfect format for hockey to be seen, especially when it comes to getting interest in the game. With it constantly being on the NBC family of networks, it’s hard to avoid the games and the sports with that kind of reach. Let’s be honest, if not for other contracts, you’d have to think that NBCSN would be just 12-hours of hockey for their network.

To be quite honest, I don’t know if I miss the fans in attendance. Atmosphere does count for something and it’s a big talking point during the games. But at the same time, if it’s teams I have no stake in; I couldn’t care less about how the atmosphere is in the arena– it’s not like they can keep it up for all 60 minutes of game time. I’m sure I’ll be tired of hearing the “What could this ‘home’ team do if they had their fans to charge them up” narrative, but such as life.

At first I thought it’d be dreadful to deal with an empty arena– but the NHL and their broadcast partners in NBC and Rogers have done very well. Not only that, the arena workers (who should get more money for this) are doing a great job keeping the ice in as good of a condition as possible, while also quick-changing the advertising around the board depending upon the home team and what they’ve sold for the games. I honestly can’t say that I notice too much– whether that be because the game presentation is the same (if not better with other caveats they’ve put in) or the crowd noise pumped in and video messages being shown; but I like this more now than I would have in a normal playoff.

That said, I don’t know if I could deal with this year-in and year-out, but there’s something to be said about this atmosphere in the bubble and the amount of hockey you get in one day because of the staggered scheduling. I’m quite enjoying how it’s been plan and how it’s been executed– let’s just see if I still feel that way in October when it’s over with.

John Chayka Checks Out on Coyotes Before Reboot

Okay, so this Arizona Coyotes thing is just as Arizona Coyotes as it gets, right??

John Chayka quits the team days before the playoffs, this after another team requested to talk with him about a job and after owner Alex Meruelo and his team took over contract discussions with Taylor Hall. Seeing the writing possibly on the wall, Chayka bails and now the team is going to the league to see what they can do with his contract.

It’s hard to believe that Meruelo was said to be a fan of Chayka and his style, which lead to Chayka having his contract extended. Then Chayka goes and does this because the ownership group started to micro-manage talks with a pending free agent; which has to be an odd situation considering the Coyotes are almost at the cap limit as it is with Hall’s contract going to bring in much more that the $6M he’s getting now.

Obviously, Chayka is going to be blamed for the money issues– he is the GM afterall. But wouldn’t he have to get clearance from Meruelo or previous owner Andrew Barroway to even get the money for those moves??

When Chayka came in, he was the wunderkind of this new movement toward analytics some NHL teams were making. At just 26, Chayka came from an analytics company called Stathletes founded by himself and his sister Meghan. However, for Chayka; the only playoff appearance a team under his watch has seen is this one with the expanded playoff format, as they were fifth in the Pacific prior to the pause.

Are the Coyotes jackasses for undercutting the job of their GM in contract talks?? Sure, especially when he’s not present to get a write-off dinner out of it. Is Chayka a quitter and may have screwed his team over with the contract given?? Well, the numbers don’t really lie.

Is it a shocking surprise that it’s Arizona having to deal with this?? Kind of, especially when they looked to be going in the right direction for long-term growth. It’s almost a shame that it’s going down like this and playing out as chaotically as it is prior to the NHL Reboot. But so it goes with the Coyotes.

The NHL Bubbles That Span City Blocks

The NHL unveiled the layout for their bubble for the restart of the 2019-20 season. I don’t know why they felt the need to show where they were going to be, but here we are. It’s the same question I had for when they told the general public where the players were going to stay.

Sure, people know where the NBA players are staying, but their bubble is actually a bubble. The NHL is basically having their own zone that they’ll call a bubble…which in Toronto is spanned across the damn city. It’s insane how little of a bubble this bubble actually is. There might be precautions, but the vast layout of this landscape is amazingly out of touch with the rest of the sporting world.

Courtesy NHL Media

In Toronto, one of the hotels is about two miles from the arena and the other hotel. Though they have access to BMO Field for dryland, unless there’s a series of tubes or tunnels; I don’t know how secure that is for those people in this situation. They can pimp out the diverse bars, movie theaters, tennis courts, and the like– but it’s insane to me that these hotels and stuff around right next to each other to give some kind of semblance of a bubble area.

Courtesy NHL Media

Edmonton is a little bit better of a control zone, as the NHL was able to fit it all on one map. That’s by design though, as Daryl Katz was all about creating a small city atmosphere when he envisioned this new arena for the Oilers. Little did he know about a pandemic…though he did work in pharmaceuticals and if you believe conspiracy theorists– maybe he did know. But, while the hotels and such are closer; still two city blocks between the hotels and all.

Forget the media whining about their access, the fact that these guys are so spread out across the cities is a bit head-scratching. Who knows how secure this will be with blocking outside influences from the players and keeping the players within this landscape before there’s some kind of breakaway. More over, I have to wonder what delusional person is going to be fanatical enough to try and break through the bubble to go viral– in the internet sense and maybe the health sense. Don’t say it won’t happen, but it’s Canada, it’s hockey, and those two can be a pridefully volatile mix.

They Actually Did It

The Seattle Kraken is the Boaty McBoatface of the sports landscape. Forget the rest of the identity, but the fact people willed this into existence through social media and tricking the powers-that-be in Seattle this was a good idea– it happened. It’s kind of fascinating they actually went with it; but aside from the dumb idea of renaming them the Metropolitans or calling them a fish name in Sockeyes…this had to be it, right??

Overall, the look is fine. The blue on blue on blue with a hint of red is a nice look. The logo looks a tad weird in that it looks more serpent-like than cephalopod, but the secondary logo of the anchor with the space needle is a solid nod to the city. But…the name it something that still will hang with them through and through.

However, this is just another step for the NHL’s latest team. The hype was surrounding it, they’ve put it off because of the fact that there’s a pandemic going on with a side of racial injustice, and there’s more serious things to deal with over an expansion team identity. Now, with this, an arena title sponsor, and all of that done. It’s time to look forward to who will be the first Kraken roster player. With Vegas, it was Reid Duke; so it might be a safe bet that’ll be an overage major junior free agent next season and that’ll be that then.

But it’s nice to put a face and a name to the city. It’s an identity that’s very specific to the sea with a color scheme close to the other teams in the city to create a unity, of sorts, to the sporting community of Seattle. With a sharp logo and buzz around the name– it’s probably going to be a solid seller for the basic shirts and such because people will want to get on the ground floor and show their support for the new team; especially if the silliness of the name wears off and people just go with the flow.

On the Topic Of NHL’s Bubble Hockey

As we creep closer and closer to the bubble of the NHL being a real thing and the 2019-20 season resuming, there’s a lot to take in. Here’s my thoughts that no one asked for on a whole lot of them.

First, and probably most importantly, is the health aspect of it. Bill Daly has always said that one or two tests won’t spark a complete stoppage, but what is the magic number?? Especially as you get teams into the bubble and they start to intermingle with each other, there’s a slight possibility of positive testings. Could there be a chance that the virus could wipe out a team’s playoff hopes once they get to the bubble; much like it did to some MLS team?? It’s all up to the league and teams to actually be beyond strict with maintaining the bubble and isolating anyone who may seem to be down with the sickness. That said, the numbers coming out of the NBA bubble are a sign of the bubble process working, even with two positive tests coming from the NHL side.

Second, the latest one of the five-second delay in the broadcast that’ll happen and some people are upset about. Understandable to be upset, especially when most people got hyped when HBO had “The Road to the Winter Classic” and everyone heard all the swear words. As much as I like the swearing in the midst of a game, I don’t know if I need to hear it constantly on the ice during the playoffs. It starts to lose it’s luster after a while– plus, these guys are cliche with their post-game comments; I’m sure they’ll be as plain with their cursing chirps, as well.

Third, can this lead to extended playoff fields?? Sure, we all know that the NHL has more than half their league currently making the playoffs. But for owners, the playoffs are solid money and for the league, that’s more hockey related revenue for the business. The question then becomes if owners will want to drop up to four home regular season dates for that to happen. Playoffs aren’t always a given, but with a new model in more teams making it– that’s where owners can raise the price, more teams can have playoff appearances, and a shorter regular season can finally happen.

Fourth, and the final one for now: the eeriness of the empty arena. We know, the teams are looking for cringe cell phone footage from fans to play in the arena to liven it up; but it’s not going to be continuous. I’m shocked with how the EA Sports team hold the rights to the video game franchise hasn’t said they’ll help pump in some faux crowd noise. However, is it going to make a bit of a difference to the players?? Is it something they’ll actually enjoy?? Is this their perfect playing situation, despite about what they say about the league’s fan base??

On the Topic Of Return to Play

Vancouver Canucks practice PRE-shutdown

We’re in the Return to Play era of the 2019-20 season and we couldn’t be more conflicted with how things should be handled. There’s a group of people who think this is a good idea, something we needs, and a distraction. There’s a group that’s want the season to end, have concern for the player’s health, and don’t care for distractions in these trying times.

Not going to lie, but I’m on the fence of both.

Overall, the NHL has seemingly done a lot to make sure testing is accessible, players and staff who do test positive are isolated quickly, and want to make sure when they get into the bubbles; they’re safer than they would be if they weren’t in a bubble.

The biggest thing is this training camp to bubble time, where the NHL hopes that the players self-isolate and not get into health trouble like how reports are circulating about the St. Louis Blues had a get-together and had multiple positive cases after.

After three-plus months of isolation, you could expect that there would be positive cases in the absence of a vaccine. People aren’t intertwined with people outside of who they isolated with, so they’ll have to build an immunity to it without a vaccine. It really shouldn’t shock everyone, but that’s where the “Shut the Season” people lose me because one or two positive tests aren’t an alarm for shutting the whole thing down.

That’s where the opt-out comes in and good on the players who have opted out for putting their health first or because they didn’t feel like they’d be in peak condition or wanted to travel and then not play at all. The NHL gave them that option, teams on the surface are giving two thumbs up to the players making that decision, and most of the fans are understanding in why these players are doing it.

Where the real lookout is going to be is two weeks from today. By all accounts, the C19 takes a two-week period for positives to come through, if not sooner. With all the players back in full, the look at testing and the results will be under a bigger microscope. While the NHL has said that a rash of positives aren’t going to bury the season from their point of view, you have to wonder if public and/or sponsor pressure (brought on by the public or by their own accord) would be something that torpedoes the season.

However, you have to look to NASCAR to see a small sample of how to deal with a possible test of a name driver. Jimmie Johnson publicly shared a positive test on July 3rd. He missed the race that weekend at Indianapolis, but returned this past weekend at Kentucky after two consecutive days of negative tests. If that’s the case for the NHL and the cases that are positive are asymptomatic like Johnson’s were…I could see why the season wouldn’t be shuttered because of some positive testing. Plus, the driver himself had more questions than answers after the double-negative after the positive.

It’s hard to predict what way the virus and the sporting leagues will go. Learning new things everyday about the virus and then having to change what was learned because of new information is very goal-post-moving, but something that’s necessary for these unprecedented times.

TEPID TAKE: The Best Possible Draft Lottery Outcome

After having time to think about it– the mystery Team E winning the NHL Draft Lottery is the BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME for the Qualifying Round of the playoff restart.

Yes, it sucks for teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators to not get a top pick after being terrible this past season. That said, some might say that getting Alexis Lafreniere isn’t going to be the cure-all for those teams. It would be nice, sure, but at the same time– it may not address the needs those teams need in the long-run.

But with Team E winning the Draft Lottery, it will get more people into the Qualifying Round and to pay attention to those who get eliminated. If the NHL and NBC marketing teams were smart, they’d have a little side promotion about how even if you lose out– you might still win with the 1st overall pick in the Draft. It might hook on some people who may not watch the qualifying rounds because it’s teams just getting back going after four months of a layoff, but it adds another thing of weirdness to an already weird timeline we’re living in.

Granted, there’s going to be plenty of conspiracy theorist that the NHL rigged this for certain teams to get a chance should they be eliminated in that qualifier, especially if teams who are already loaded– like Pittsburgh and Edmonton– get the first pick through fate. Even so, though– it would be a nice little touch for teams that are hated because they have so much talent to get more and for fans around the league to have a black-hat villain to look towards.

While this wasn’t the most unconventional Draft Lottery– that is held by the 2005 Lottery– this is probably the most fun. I’m all for chaos and schadenfreude in the the NHL, it makes watching it fun for me. This was the best outcome for the league because of the fact they need all the attention they can get, especially with the pause of the season. To get eyes on the game because the qualifiers will help determine who gets the top prospect of the draft is an amazing gimmick.

It’s easy to understand why people are butt-hurt. It may have looked like a bad idea for the league to have a Draft Lottery with teams who haven’t lost yet getting the top pick, but in the grand schemes– this is the best possible outcome and may translate into more people paying attention to the qualifying rounds when they may not have.

Though, let’s be honest, it might not be a concern at all if the NHLPA doesn’t agree to the season ending or the qualifying round getting stopped due to sickness– but it’s still a nice thought to have that it becomes Mario Kart rules where even if you lose in the playoffs– you could possibly win the top overall pick in the Draft.

TEPID TAKE: The Reboot

Okay, let’s just take a step back to process the craziness about what the NHL rolled out Tuesday in regards to ending the 2019-20 season. I won’t get into the Draft Lottery too much because…well, I need a team of scientist to decipher it. But the reboot of the season– this is something that’s been polarizing with a good amount of people on the “what are you thinking side of things” for one reason or another.

Before it’s started, the biggest thing is that this can all be dissolved by the players, who will need to collectively bargain this roll out. If they say no, then it’s done and you can’t blame them because even with the NHL saying they’ve got enough kits to test every day…still some people are going to be apprehensive, rightfully so; especially with the failures of some tests and testing labs.

In any case, the regular season is done in the biblical sense. The NHLPA still said that the “qualification” rounds may have stats count towards the regular season totals before the post-season totals count. It’s a bit odd considering that it’s a playoff scenario, but not really a playoff since other teams are playing for positioning at the top of the table– but let’s not let that get in the way of a confusing roll-out.

Hub Cities (TM) are still to be determined with 10 finalists being there and waiting like it was an Olympic bid or American Idol. That’s going to be more interesting than how to figure out the draft lottery. I’m sure any city will be great to hold it in, though with no fans and probably players not going out on the town– doesn’t really matter outside of the facilities that those cities will bolster for the players.

I’ve been on the fence between doing a 31-team tournament to shutting the whole thing down. As we sit here with a 24-team format, I’m more okay with it. Nothing to do about being a completionist, but if you believe the NHL in having enough tests and saying the test will be every day….why not get it done?? There’s going to be some people upset the NHL got those tests, but if they bought it through legit means– very little to be done; just ask Larry Hogan about buying tests for the betterment of his state. Sure, the next season will be super late on the calendar and lack on because of the 82-game format they’re hoping for– but if there’s a chance to play, why not take it out for a spin??

The Draft Lottery is more convoluted because there’s two phases which include the teams that don’t advance in the play-in round. How the NHL couldn’t have just gone with the seven teams that didn’t make it be in the lottery and then the rest fall as they may– much like the other seasons when it comes to the Draft….but that’s too easy. Gotta mix it up, gotta go outside the box.

There’s A LOT to be done still. Like I said, if at any point the NHLPA feels slighted, then they can nix this deal and the whole thing is dead in the water. I don’t think anyone would fault them for it like it were some kind of labor strife. This decision can either go really right and nothing bad happens and people panicked over nothing though they were justified in doing so at the time. It could also go very sideways, very quickly and the NHL and NHLPA look like fools for rushing back in just to do so.

If nothing else– it’s making for a wonderful story to be told in a future “30 For 30.”

Remembering the Reebok Edge Rollout

The Rbk EDGE Uniform System (Photo by Mike Fuentes/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As I was going through YouTube, a clip came up from 2010 when the Flyers beat the Bruins after coming back from 0-3 down in the series. I didn’t think about the hilarious collapse of the Bruins, but more of how horrible those Flyers jerseys were. They came from the redesign of the NHL’s jerseys by Reebok and their Edge jersey system. Then I remembered the start of the roll out of those jerseys at the 2007 Draft in Columbus. With Reebok being the ultimate brand in the NHL, they needed to do something with the uniform system; especially after Nike came out with their Swift uniform system for the 2006 Turin Olympics (which had their own issues before the Games).

Before the big rollout, the NHL debuted the jerseys at the 2007 All-Star Game in Dallas– which happened to be the last time the NHL had a weekday ASG. The jerseys did away with the bulk air-knit jerseys of the past and make them more anatomical for the players, which was perfect for the new speed that the game had brought back post-lockout. Reebok touted the jerseys were 14% lighter and had moisture resistant technology, which absorbed 76% less moisture. There’s much more, including the core technology they had put together in this video here.

As for the rollout itself, it went team-by-team; though the NHL Draft hosts in Columbus debuted their look at the Draft itself, as did the Capitals There were some teams that did an entire overhaul– like the Capitals, Sharks, and Canucks; while other teams kind of fell into a templated nightmare with other teams. For instance, the Penguins, Senators, and Lightning used the same template as the All-Star jerseys; while the Predators, Oilers, and Panthers used their own template with the latter two having unnecessary piping on it. The piping was also noticed around the shoulder yoke of the Carolina Hurricanes, which stood out like a sore thumb. Not only that, but half the league went without the traditional bottom hem stripe on the jersey. The wide array can be found on the NHL Uniforms’ site.

Interestingly enough, the jerseys were starting to get leaked on the internet thanks to EA Sports putting out an unlock code for the game before teams officially put the jerseys out to the public. It was truly a fun time for people who were pining to see what their teams would do, but also a cringe time for some when their team underwhelmed in this situation.

I like to remember is how the first versions of these jerseys were trash. They only lasted about half a year before Reebok had to redo the whole thing because the first version was doing it’s job by repelling moisture…but into the gloves the players making sweat pool in their gloves. That made Reebok revert back a little to the airknit fabric and making them a bit less form fitting. We did have a glimpse into the look of the jersey, as the Ducks and Sabres each had a redesign in 2006-07 that was a format for what the new jerseys would look like with the collar being very pointed and where the NHL logo would appear on all the jerseys a season later.

Looking back, it was a huge step for the jersey era; especially with MSRP of jerseys going up because of the materials used. It was also a sigh of relief as rumors had the system using tucked in jerseys killing any kind of loose fit. The Edge system also was the start of the Icethetics website, where a lot of the leaks were posted for wider consumption.

The look itself may have turned off some people because it wasn’t traditional enough for them, but in the end; we all made it out and now move on with life in the Adizero era where the weight feels more like the older jerseys, which doesn’t seem to affect the play on the ice with the players.

Pushing Back The 2020-21 Season

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 12: A goal sits on the empty ice prior to the Detroit Red Wings playing against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775376586 ORIG FILE ID: 1212022895

According to Pierre LeBrun, the start of the 2020-21 season will be in December; accounting for the idea that the NHL season will resume in July like some people are hypothesizing. LeBrun said that the league would hope to have a full 82-game slate for the squads, but is there a chance that isn’t feasible.

It’s hard for everyone right now being without entertainment as their cooped up in the house in this Schrodinger world we’re living in, but you also have to look out for common sense. Money is going to be lost by the NHL because the odds are good that no fans will be allowed for whatever’s left for the 2019-20 season. Yet, the biggest thing to look at is the idea that players will be very worn out from the summer hockey and then however short the offseason is for them and then right into the next season in December. The start and stop aspect probably isn’t the most ideal, especially when the goal is a 82-game affair and everything that would give breaks would be scrapped to get back on schedule for everyone.

Now, of course, there’s plenty of red-tape that the league will need to get through in order to go through with their plan of finishing the current season. The border of Canada and the US is closed, so teams there would need to figure out how the hell to get out and play if they indeed get this whole thing started up again. Then you have to hope the proper testing is in place because one setback could ruin the entire rest of 2019-20, despite what Bill Daly may have said. You also have to wonder how keen the players are to fit all those games in what looks like it could be an 11-month window.

As much as I miss live hockey, the idea that we need to push for it to come back in the most uncertain of times seems very short-sighted, the business aspect be damned. What’s gained by getting back on the ice sooner than needed?? What’s gained by further pushing the players’ bodies by keeping the schedule for next year the same, while giving them much less off-time for said schedule and taxing their bodies even more?? Is it worth rushing things for this season and then condensing next season in order to not lose as much money?? These are the questions that need to be asked when you look at the entire scope of things.

If the NHL is rushing back just to get back, then it could be a high-risk, high reward situation. If it pays off, they look like geniuses for getting back when they did and plotting out things to get back on track by the 2021-22 season. If it stumbles and turns out to be the worst thing to happen to hockey– they might not hear the end of it. I don’t envy those making these decisions, but they can’t make it in haste just because we’re all anxious and bored with no live sports.